A rugby coach from Llanelli has been shortlisted for the Change a Life Award by UK Coaching, in recognition of their work over 26 seasons coaching a disability inclusive rugby team and leading the way supporting other mixed ability clubs in the local area and beyond.
The UK Coaching Awards is a national celebration event, regarded as the most prestigious within the coaching community and created to celebrate the remarkable contributions coaches make – from delivering high quality and technical coaching, to supporting participants both physically and mentally.
Gwilym lolo Lewis is a Player / Coach with Llanelli Warriors RFC, having coached the Warriors for 26 seasons and nearly 400 matches. The team include players with and without disabilities and have included those with physical and intellectual disabilities alongside players who have won international honours.
Under Lewis’ leadership, the Warriors have sought to give as many different rugby experiences as possible, and have taken the team on international tours to New Zealand and Samoa, matches at the Principality Stadium, and more regular fixtures than any other mixed ability teams.
As Lewis himself puts it, as a mixed ability team the Warriors are showing society that disabled people “don’t need a segregated sport or category. We are the team that will not identify players with disabilities, the team that over one season played the most fixtures in Wales, the side that will do a naked calendar, or anything else that people with disabilities supposedly aren’t supposed to do – we hope we’re developing society a little bit.”
On their nomination, Gwilym said: “I’m proud to be nominated by the Welsh Rugby Union inclusion team. I started because I wanted to help, and because I enjoyed the challenge of working with people.
“Sometimes sport is the crucial thread that keeps people hanging in there, and invested coaching is what keeps people in sport. It’s very satisfying to know that you make a difference to people. I regularly have players, friends and relatives telling me how good playing rugby has been, not just the players with disabilities. I love seeing people grow in confidence, grow their network, and become healthier people, both physically and mentally.
“The most important thing is that people are enjoying themselves. As a coach of people with disabilities, furthering the concept of inclusion and breaking down preconceptions is important and a big personal driver for me. Integrity as a coach is huge, you need to have your values and stick to them.”
With previous award winners including Sarina Wiegman, Jane Figueiredo, Judy Murray, and Ben Stokes’ coaching chain, the awards celebrate the best of the UK’s Coaching workforce, the unforgettable moments they deliver, and the profound impact at every level of sport and activity.
UK Coaching’s CEO Mark Gannon congratulated Lewis on their nomination, and reflected on the huge variety of coaching talent announced:
“We are delighted to announce our finalists for the 2023 UK Coaching Awards. Across the board we have seen so much talent, passion and commitment amongst our amazing coaching workforce, and this year’s finalists represent the best of our nation’s coaches who do so much to support people through sport and physical activity.
“All of our finalists should be extremely proud of what they have been able to achieve and fully deserve this recognition. We are very much looking forward to celebrating together at our UK Coaching Awards ceremony, bringing together the coaches that are going above and beyond to deliver outstanding experiences and make a real difference in their community.”
The awards will be held on 5 December at the Queens Hotel in Leeds.
Find out more about this year’s finalists and the awards by heading to www.ukcoaching.org/uk-coaching-awards.